My Thinning Hair Journey
I recall several middle school days when my dad would complain about all my hair around my bathroom floor. At first, I didn’t think anything of it (and neither did he), but I really started to notice my thinning hair during my sophomore year of high school. I had been on spring break with all of my friends, and noticed later in our pictures that my scalp was showing more significantly than I’d remembered before:
I was (and still am!) so embarrassed by photos just like this, not understanding why or how this was happening to my hair. We’re shown by the media that having this thick, luxurious hair is part of what makes us strong and attractive beings. As a teenager, I was particularly sensitive about my thinning hair and appearance. But at the time, I honestly had no idea what to do about it. I thought I was doomed to it, and frankly, I was too embarrassed to ask my parents for help.
My parents typically took the “discrete” route when it came to awkward conversations or issues in our family, which is probably why I’ve had to grow out of my discomfort with confrontation. I remember one day one of my parents bought me some “hair-growth shampoo”. I used it for a while, but the chemicals would burn and itch my scalp. Although this is typical when you first start these types of treatments, I was ashamed and frustrated about it. So much that I gave up on my thinning hair.
It Got Worse…
I noticed that over the following years of college up til now, my hair thinning only got worse. Added stressors like death and anxiety may have also contributed to my detrimental hair health. Every time I get a haircut, I try to get ahead of the comments my hairdressers might say by explaining “I have thin hair so there’s not much to work with but…”. While I’ve done a lot of work accepting all parts of myself for where I’m at, it’s still an area of self-consciousness for me. It wasn’t until last year that I took the initiative to seek out doctor about it.
What is Hair Miniaturization?
According to my doctor, hair miniaturization is when your original thick, terminal hairs finish their growth cycle and are replaced by thinner, finer versions of themselves (1). The newer, finer hairs grow for a shorter period of time. Thus, instead of growing for 5-7 years, they may only grow for 3-4 years or as short as 1-2 years. Women who are at the early stages of female pattern hair loss can actually have significant shedding/thinning hair because as the hair cycle progressively shortens, more and more hairs are lost in the shower, on the pillow, etc.
Why Does Miniaturization Happen?
While miniaturization isn’t full on female pattern hair loss (FPHL), FPHL is common in women and affects 40-50% of the female population. According to my doctor, it’s typically inherited, which makes sense because both my mom and brother have similarly thin hair. Thinning hair and hair loss is polygenic, meaning it can come from many different genes from many different ancestors.
What Can You Do About It?
My first step was going to see a doctor who is a specialist in hair loss. I visited her about a year ago, and honestly it took a lot of courage to schedule an appointment in the first place. She explained all of the different options for me, which all had to do with a combination of chemical/hormonal therapies. She prescribed me with minoxidil, known as the most effective treatment and only FDA approved medication for thinning hair and loss. You might better know this as Rogaine, a foam treatment that reduces hair shedding and maintains your thicker hair.
I was also taking birth control at the time, and was taking one that had norethindrone, which can potentially worsen hair loss. So, she prescribed me with a birth control similar to Yaz, which contains drospirenon. Drospirenone is an “off-treatment” for hair follicle health, meaning it wasn’t created to treat hair but it’s known to help. She also showed me some ways to mask my scalp, like getting a root color spray. I got creative and started using dark brown eye shadow in some spotty areas of my scalp.
Did it Work?
To be completely honest with y’all, I didn’t stick with the minoxidil therapy. These therapies typically take about 3-6 months to see a reduction in hair shedding, and another 6-12 months to see regrowth in thicker hair follicles. Basically, I wasn’t patient and consistent enough, and I was still feeling pretty ashamed to use the treatment prescribed for me. This past year has also been a huge one for me in transitioning to a more holistic and functional form of health/medicine, researching more natural ways of healing physical symptoms for my body.
I’ve been more focused on things like healing my relationships with food/my loved ones/myself, decreasing anxiety, and bettering my digestive issues. So honestly, I’m not sure if that minoxidil worked! I work every day to accept my body the way it is, from my thin hair to my stretch marks. With that being said, I’ve really taken charge of my health this year. Just because these were the cards I’ve been dealt doesn’t mean I don’t want to/can’t do something about it. I’m still determined to strive for optimum hair health.
So… What Are You Doing Now?
I’m focusing on the non-toxic/chemical related therapies I can do for my hair. Here are some steps anyone can take to improve hair health, no matter what hair type you have. I’ve gathered these tips from various doctors and studies:
- Collagen protein – Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body; it helps to build connective tissue and contributes to skin, hair, and nail health. Lately I’ve been using BulletProof Collagen Protein. I also love Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. People swear by this stuff, so I’m doing my best to make it every morning with my bulletproof matcha and/or coffee!
- Supplements – I take EastWest’s “Lush Locks”, a supplement with biotin, folate, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, and other hair growth promoting ingredients. Dr. Taz sent me this in a giveaway, she’s an incredible holistic health doctor and author of Superwoman RX! You can find her product here.If you’re looking for a more affordable supplement, biotin is highly recommended by the doctors I’ve been to. Biotin helps your body synthesize proteins for skin, hair, and metabolic functions. This one by Sports Research (their products are backed up with science and are affordable!) is vegan-friendly.
- Eating nutrient dense/anti-inflammatory/organic foods – Chemicals in food can act as endocrine disrupters that interfere with hair growth. Further, inflammation can contribute to hair loss. Foods filled with nutrients like omega-3’s, zinc, fiber, and healthy fats are great for hair growth!
- Drinking green tea – Green tea helps promote detoxification and contains antioxidants that promote hair growth (FYI; matcha is a form of green tea).
- Cooking with bone broth – The collagen & amino acid profiles in bone broth also contribute hair growth, they also include some key vitamins and nutrients like. Bone broth can also aid with leaky gut/digestive issues, food intolerances/allergies, joint pain, and immune system issues (2).
- Avoiding processed foods/alcohol/sugar – Inflammatory and insulin resistance contributing foods, both no-no’s for hair health.
- Stress Relief – While stress itself isn’t known to cause permanent damage to your hair, it can temporarily stop the follicles from growing and cause your hair to shed and thin (3). This is a less obvious hair therapy treatment, but I include mindfulness and breathing exercises into my daily routine in efforts to keep my anxiety and stress levels to a minimum.
The Journey Continues
Some other therapies I haven’t experimented with yet are essential oils (like tea-tree oil) and hair masks (with coconut oil & apple cider vinegar).
My hair health is an on-going journey. I’m determined to get my hair to its fullest potential through a combination of natural therapies and non-harmful products! At the end of the day, what matters most is accepting all parts of ourselves, without anything changing at all. Every day I’m learning to increase my self-love, which is actually part of what Don Miguel Ruiz says is a key to your happiness in this incredible book I’m reading (4). Stay tuned, and stay blessed 🙂
If you liked this post, please share and shoot me a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts on hair health!
Simply Carly Marie
Disclaimer: I am not a certified medical doctor and this should not be considered legal health advice. Please consult a doctor for your own situation.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase or sign up for a program, I may earn a commission. This is at no additional cost to you.
(4) The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz https://amzn.to/2BAiR0Q
The Conditional Trap
Like anything in life, putting a condition on your happiness will never make you happy. What I mean by this is that if you think there’s some thing, some place, some amount of time, or some one that will change the state of your happiness, you’re gravely mistaken. They might add to your happiness, but they don’t create it. We often get caught up in thinking about things that we don’t have… like an amazing relationship, more money, reaching your goal weight, having a great job, maybe even having a nice house. Have you ever said something like “man, I have NO clothes to wear out tonight!” Or “man, if I just had a million dollars I’d be happy”. We’ve all been there. Society tells us, especially in the media, that if we have these things, we’ll be happier people.
The thing is, dreaming of all the things you don’t have invalidates your current experience, those sources of happiness that you can tap into right now. By focusing on all the things you don’t have, you create this sense of feeling lost, of striving for something that will change you from one state of being saddened, anxious, or stressed, to complete contentment. Have you ever stopped to think about how you would feel if you actually had those things? Would having those things actually make you a happier person? What does having those things actually “fix” about your current experience?
You Already Have It All
Oprah once said, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough”. In other words, focusing on the gifts you already have will make you appreciate the bigger things so much more later on. Now, it’s not 100% our faults that we think this way; Author Matt Haig explains that happiness isn’t very good for the economy, because our economy thrives off of highlighting our flaws. I mean, how else would weight-loss (or gain) supplement companies make money, if they didn’t make us feel like it’s worrisome to not be at the “perfect” weight?
The world does a pretty impressive world trying to convince us that we have to change ourselves in order to be happy. But it *is* up to us to recognize the total BS in all of that. We also so often take for granted all of the things we have today; clean water running out of a sink, access to food every day, a roof over our heads, windows, clothes… And I myself have been a victim of not seeing the value of what I have today.
There was a time in my life where I fell into the conditional trap. For example when I first started my fitness journey back in 2014, I thought that losing weight would make me a happier person. But once I actually lost weight for the first time in my life, I realized I was still unhappy. Not only that, but I eventually developed unhealthy coping mechanisms through food that made me gain all of that weight back. So while I did learn that working out made me feel good, what I didn’t realize is that I was still dealing with inner pain that hadn’t healed from my childhood. I couldn’t even think about being grateful for how my body had carried me through so much, without it losing weight.
Viscous Cycle of Instant Gratification
We live in a world of instant gratification. Post a picture or status, get a like, and you feel pretty good about yourself. But as I’ve already demonstrated, happiness comes from feeling gratitude for the things we have today, not from the things we’re waiting for. For me, my body resorted to food for instant gratification. I got into the vicious cycle of emotional eating, that I’m sure some of y’all are familiar with: Something stresses me out, I’d start to feel sad or anxious, grab food even if I was not hungry, eat it, feel happy for 1.5 seconds, then feel guilty and/or sick for eating something I didn’t really want. Then I’d eat more because I’d feel even WORSE than I had in the first place!
It’s a terrible feeling, and these cycles can happen with more than just food; buying new clothes (aka “retail therapy”), lashing out on a loved one, or even by reaching out to someone who you know is not good for you in hopes for some positive attention (have y’all ever redownloaded dating apps just to get messages from people who thought you looked good? I DEFINITELY used to do that!). If you relate to these things, don’t feel bad. Our brains are wired to protect ourselves against threats, and stress is a threat, biologically speaking! We hope for a quick fix to solve all our problems, but it’s just not realistic.
A Therapy Session That Changed It All
One of the most powerful therapy sessions I’ve ever had was one that also felt extremely ridiculous. I was telling my therapist about an argument I’d gotten in with my boyfriend, how it seemed so silly but I wanted him to voice more positive affirmations to me. My boyfriend is a big actions speak louder than words guy, which I absolutely love about him, but I personally wanted to hear more words from him. After a few minutes of this story, my therapist said “huh, let’s talk about gratitude for a second.” I kind of shrugged inside, thinking he was about to get all *woo woo* on me and tell me that the cure to my frustration is all about opening up my heart and filling it with sunshine and rainbows or some crap.
He went on to tell me a few crazy stories about how he had tricked his brain into LOVING Pez. Yes, that candy we never see anymore but has a variety of fun little dispensers. He said he’d never thought anything of it, but repeated his love for Pez in his head over and over again. He DRILLED the concept into his head every day. A couple months later, he saw a table of Pez dispensers at a table in a gas station. He said he ran to them with pure joy and bought ten of them. His friend was like “what is your deal with Pez, man?” And he replied. “I mean, it’s PEZ, how great are they!”
A Test of Happiness
It was at that point that he realized he’d done it. He’d taught himself to love and appreciate something he would’ve never thought twice about before. So his inner scientist said if I can do this to myself, then it should then be replicable and testable. After some other trials, his final test was to see if he could make his friends love the band Journey. Mind you, he has mostly musician friends that like heavy metal and rap, not big Journey fans. Every time he was in the car with his friends, he played a Journey song.
After weeks of his friends laughing at his “love for Journey”, they switched from sarcastically listening to Journey with him to legitimately requesting that he play it. After some weeks, he was buying supplies for a Barbecue he was having, and came across free lawn seat tickets to Journey. At the BBQ, he showed everyone the Journey tickets, and you’d have thought they were like Willy Wonka golden tickets. He said he’d never seen his friends so excited for a concert! At the concert, one of his friends was like “wait… you did this, didn’t you?” as he smiled with pride.
“Gratitude is a skill”
He had successfully tested his hypothesis that you can teach people to feel gratitude for something. “These series of tests taught me that gratitude doesn’t always just come to us” he said. “Gratitude is a skill”. He explained to me that it’s not enough to just write things down that you’re grateful for, but you have to really practice thinking about it. The last 25 minutes of our session, he essentially spent time drilling gratitude into my head for the littlest of things. My shoes, glass windows, light bulbs, etc.
I thought this exercise, if I could even call it that, was so ridiculous at first… but then I eventually started pointing out all the random things I was grateful for on my own. Even though I knew exactly what he was doing, I “played along” at first, but realized he’d tricked my brain into pointing out the good in all these small things, just like he had done with his friends. In those 25 or so minutes, he’d convinced me that virtually everything in that room was amazing. At the end of our session he said, “how are you feeling about your boyfriend now?” And I could really only think about the amazing things my boyfriend does for me, and how great of a partner he is #blessed.
Where The Focus Goes, Energy Flows
Wherever your attention goes, your energy follows. If you focus on all of the things you don’t have or on the bad things going on in your life, your entire outlook revolves around negativity. You get “stuck” and feel incomplete. Every time someone asks how you’re doing, your answer is something like “things are fine”. Sure, it’s important to have goals and visions to improve yourself and to manifest where you want to be one day, but what matters in the end is the process and the steps it took to get there.
I urge you to try these three things to combat the negative thoughts or feelings you have related to the past or future. These practices will help you focus on gratitude for the small things, help you have a “glass half full” reaction, and appreciate your present moment. Once you get the ball rolling in thinking better about the gifts you have today, it will in turn have a snowball effect on everything else life has to offer you. With consistency, these gratitude practices will help you find more happiness in all aspects of your life. Be patient with yourself with these, you deserve to reap the full benefits!
3 Gratitude Practices, For Longterm Happiness!
1. Interrupt Negative Feelings with Positive Thoughts
The next time you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or angry about something, interrupt that feeling with grounding gratitude. Literally, try and make it a habit to stop that negative thought right in its track before it turns into self-worthlessness that you get so used to hearing that you actually believe it. For example something like, “I have so much work and not enough time to finish it all… Why didn’t I plan better… I’m worthless!” could be interrupted with, “Wow, I’m so lucky to be in a position to get an education/have a job. Being stressed about this isn’t even an option for some people. I can focus on the things I can do, I’m resourceful and capable… I can figure this out!”
Or it could be as simple as compiling a list of positive memories. For example, laughing with your best friend, being in your happy place (maybe on the beach?), a moment with your partner. Envision that memory for a minute, turn up the sound, the tastes, the smells, the feelings… turn it up some more… smile, and keep going about your day.
2. Retrain The Voice In Your Head
Ask the voice in your head a new question. If you feel negative about yourself, or someone else for that matter, ask yourself “who are these thoughts serving, are these thoughts helpful?” And if not, simply recognize when this thought popped up into your head. Maybe you’ve just experienced a trigger, recognize that, and let it go. This simple practice of recognizing thoughts/reactivity that don’t serve you, not judging them, and letting them go will decrease your anxiety and stress and increase your calmness and happiness in the long run. The key is to stay consistent! Having a mindfulness practice will help this 🙂
3. Practice Gratitude EVERY Day
It’s not enough to just write down what you’re grateful for. I’ve learned this after many failed attempts. You have to literally drill it into your head like my therapist did. For example, water. Isn’t it wild that we can go to our sinks and drink the water straight out of the faucet? It has to go through so many different filtration systems before it gets to us, yet we don’t think twice about turning our water on. It’s not like that everywhere. POOLS? SHOWERS? I mean, how crazy is it that we get to shower every single day, use gallons of water at our leisure, even though water is a LIMITED resource? Isn’t it amazing that we can so blindly use our water, but without it, we’d die in 7 days?
Incredible when you piece it out and think about it right? Going through this entire process is an important every day practice. Try it for 30 days, and notice how you feel afterwards.
Happiness is there within you right now, you just have to grasp it.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” ~Ferris Bueller
Simply Carly Marie
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you like my content, check out my instagram page where I post daily stories and post about my wellness journey. If you want to put a face and voice to the words, check out my first vlog! I’d love to hear your feedback, learn more about you and stay connected 🙂
An Ode to International Women’s Day
Last week, the world celebrated International Women’s Day. There are tons of gender equality issues I could delve into, but I wanted to write on a topic that I’m personally impacted by. Only in the past few years have I finally been comfortable enough to talk about my issues with body image. I share my experience with and knowledge on body stigma in hopes of showing others that they are not alone in their struggles.
I want to preface by saying that body stigma knows no boundaries, no matter what size you are, there will be some haters who have something to say about your appearance. This post does NOT aim to judge any body type. It only speaks to my own experience in the body I’ve been given, which happens to be a “bigger” body. I also acknowledge my privilege – I recognize how body stigma has worsened effects on already discriminated groups like people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. Some of the language I use to describe my experience may not apply to everyone who identifies as a woman. I urge you to simply take from this what speaks to you.
Okay, let’s get into it!
Adverse effects & Western ideals
Having been a public health student for almost 5 years now, I’m fascinated by the science-based evidence behind the health impacts of body image issues. I took a course in undergrad about how adverse childhood experiences can decrease life expectancy, contribute to chronic illnesses, and overall decrease quality of life. It talks a lot about the effects that children have growing up in high-stress environments like experiencing gun violence, domestic abuse, divorce, corporal punishment, poverty, etc (peep the ACEs study as previously linked!) and how that affects their future. It made me think about my own “adverse experiences” and how they’ve shaped me today. Unfortunately, there’s not enough research on how body weight stigma fits into this picture yet, but there are many observations to make about it from experiencing American culture.
First, we have to recognize that Western culture has undoubtedly created a standard of beauty and the “ideal” body, by praising thinner bodies and shaming “fat bodies”. There’s notably a similar shame associated with looking “too skinny”. The history behind this shift is fascinating, and I encourage you to do your own research around how the standard of beauty transitioned from bigger bodies to thinner bodies. We see this ideal everywhere, in magazines, movies, on social media, etc. From my lens, it seems that we’re in an age where only if a woman is “thick” or has a curvaceous or athletic body is her heavier body praised. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to body stigma.
An Added Stressor on Women
This type of pressure to fit into a certain image can contribute to already placed stressors on women. On International Women’s Day, I saw a screening of the documentary Missrepresentation (available on Netflix FYI!) and was extremely disappointed by the statistics. For example, I’m sure it’s no news to you that women make $0.79 for every dollar a man earns. Less than 20% of women hold seats in Congress, but comprise over 50% of the U.S. population. 67 countries in the world have had female presidents or prime ministers. The U.S. is not one of them.
Further, the gender inequality statistics reveal some REAL health impacts on body stigma and body image issues for young girls. For example; 53% of 12 year old girls and 78% of 17 year old girls feel unhappy with their body, 65% of women and girls have an eating disorder, and rates of depression among girls and women have doubled between 2000 and 2010. The American Psychological Association calls self-objectification a national epidemic; women and girls who self-objectify are more likely to be depressed, have lower confidence, have lower ambition, and lower GPAs.
Hearing educators and other professionals talk about these body stigma issues was both troubling and motivating for me. I found myself thinking back to that undergraduate class. Clearly women are being impacted by the struggle to succeed in society in a system that isn’t set up for us to have as much success as men. How does the impact of body image in particular fit into the picture of these adverse effects on women? Why is no one talking about it? Where’s the research being done on body stigma?
“Flight or Flight”… What is that again?
To switch gears for a second, let’s talk about the science around stress. You’ve probably heard about this ol’ term. Our ancestors relied on their body cues to run from the big hungry tiger or to fight it. Our body’s stress system is designed to have us on high alert because we lose reasoning in high stress environments. So when we experience something scary or nerve-racking, those spidey senses cue said something as a threat to the brain, and it then signals our body to release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are meant to kick our butts into gear and back into safety. We’ve all experienced some form of this stress before, your heart races, your hands tremble, you start to sweat. And once that threat is gone, we start to come back to a state of normalcy again.
Pretty dope, right? We’re literally designed to survive and act in high stress situations.
So it helps us to survive, isn’t that a good thing?
Well, yes and no. While these hormones and body cues are essential to surviving high-stress situations, our bodies weren’t designed to maintain high levels of cortisol. For example, cortisol can act as an immune suppressant when present for long periods of time. This is also known as toxic stress, which is essentially the wear and tear on our physiological systems as a result of prolonged activation of the stress response systems. If you live in a high stress environment, you are less likely to understand that you can avoid this type of stress (that “fight or flight” decision) and are more likely to engage in it (aka, make the “wrong” decision and keep your body in stress mode).
Further, toxic stress can have severe physical and mental health effects. It can increase blood pressure levels that eventually lead to cardiovascular diseases, increase your likelihood of depression, disability, asthma, unemployment, lowered educational attainment, diabetes, and more. These effects can also be cross generational through our DNA. Telomeres are a protective casing at the end of a strand of DNA, and each time a cell divides, it loses a bit of its telomeres. When toxic stress occurs, our telomeres can shorten and diminish over time to a point where the cell dies. This shortening of telomeres becomes a part of our DNA, and makes our bodies less resilient in the face of health risks.
In other words, own prolonged stress can affect not only our own livelihoods, but those of our future children, making them more susceptible to these noted health risks as well.
Okay, but what does this have to do with body stigma?
Well, everything. While it may be pretty rare for us to be in a room alone with a ravenous tiger, we are now experiencing those high levels of stress from the pressure of Western society’s standards. This goes back to the connection I made earlier; toxic stress isn’t just limited to those experiencing ACEs, but to any other pressure to conformity in our society today.
As young girls, we’re indirectly (and directly) taught that our value has to do with our physical appearance. Remember the weird adults that came up to us saying, “Aw, you are such a sweet little girl. You are so pretty, you’re going to be a beautiful young woman some day”. I remember a man who cut my hair once saying, “You could be a model one day”. What do these messages tell us? That if we don’t fit into the standard of beauty that society agrees on, then we lack of self worth and capability to succeed. Seriously, where were the adults saying, “Wow, you are so (insert: smart, clever, talented). With that (insert: curiosity, mind, drive), you’re going to change the world.”.
My personal struggle
I remembering feeling the pressure of being a certain weight when I was 10 years old. I went through puberty at a young age, getting my first bra in 4th grade and my period in 5th grade. During those years, one of my grandmothers would tell my mom behind my back that I needed to lose weight. I was always the “bigger” girl amongst my peers. According to my doctor, I was technically considered overweight for my age group (but also… the inaccurate measurement of health by the BMI is a WHOLE different story for another day). I found myself becoming self conscious about not being as small as my peers or women in the media. As a TEN year old, I was embarrassed by my bigger body.
As I got older, I got more and more worried about not looking like the thinner women I looked up to. In 9th grade, my dad and I had a trainer together. I really wanted to lose weight so I could look smaller, thinking it’d make me more “likable” and “dateable”. Before leaving the house, I started changing outfits at least three times trying to decide what clothes would make people see me as less fat. I honestly still do this today. While I had great friends who never directly commented on my body, I still developed this internal struggle about my weight. I constantly thought about how other people would judge my body, and worried about how other women or men would make me feel unsafe about wearing something that showed my “bigger body”.
This consistent stress and anxiety about my body image had a snowball effect, and I developed an emotional eating problem with binge eating episodes. I’ve heard so many similar stories to mine. Many stemming from the same type of emotional trauma experienced by body stigma. Granted, I also struggled with other unresolved emotional trauma that contributed to my anxiety. But the heightened stress I had around food and coping in the form of overexercising/overeating didn’t just come out of nowhere.
Connecting the Dots
When women are under the learned message that physical appearance determines their worth, of course we’re constantly thinking about what others are going to perceive our appearance. Just as if there was a tiger in the room, we start to see our “non-ideal bodies” as a threat when they don’t look “thin” or “thick” enough to others. We release those same stress response hormones that our body creates for high stress situations, but at a more constant rate to where it feels pretty much normal to us. More and more, women are experiencing toxic stress because of body stigma. Simply because of the stories we tell ourselves; that if we aren’t meeting the physical ideal, we can’t reach our fullest potential in the world.
Where do we go from here?
It ironically stressed me out when I started thinking about the real health impacts of body stigma. How can we combat body stigma and pressure when we can’t quickly change society standards on women? How can we find happiness in our own skin?
Well luckily, we all have a voice, and I believe we should always use it to speak up for ourselves and others in the face of discrimination of any kind. It is going to take a long time to reach a place of gender equality in our country, but I strongly believe that progress will come. Just think about how many incredible people spoke up in the #MeToo movement this past year. As G.D. Anderson said, “Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”
Body Positive Call to Action
Here are some things that, regardless of gender, we can all do to work towards body positive mindsets:
- Hold people accountable for their words & actions; call out people for how their comments can be harmful, demeaning, or uncomfortable.
- Make space for the women in your life to be heard without judgement – Listen to women’s valid concerns, without the “here we go again” attitude. Also, don’t assume that she is “just being emotional”. Believe in women and their experiences.
- Support woman’s movements by participating in conversations about attitudes toward women, or even by attending marches or events regarding gender equality topics.
- STOP following Instagram accounts that make you feel bad about your body.
- FOLLOW body positive, uplifting accounts… I try to be one of those!
- Exercise because it makes your body feel good, not just to reach a body weight goal. Listen to your body when it needs a break!
- Wear clothes that you feel GOOD in, not that you eventually want to “fit in to”.
- Meditate – The ability to calm anxious thoughts with our own breathe is incredibly empowering. It’s another positive coping mechanism to have in the tool belt. I use the app calm.
- Surround yourself with people that lift you up/value you for who you are.
- Practice self-care/ self-love every day. You gotta be kind to yourself, this stuff is a lot to unpack and healing takes time.
- Write down things you love about yourself that have nothing to do with your appearance; keep them somewhere you can read them often (a mirror is a great option 🙂 )
We women are incredibly resilient, intelligent, and powerful warriors. If you’re still reading up to this point, know that you are loved, appreciated, and capable of anything. Whoever you are, regardless of gender, I hope these words inspire you to acknowledge gratitude for yourself.
With Love and Light,
*My information is knowledge I gained from lectures given by my fantastic professors. They have years of experience in public health, psychology, medicine, and even law. Feel free to contact me for further verification of those professor’s qualifications!
*This post was inspired by podcast called Nutrition Matters Podcast with RDN, CD Paige Smathers. The episode is called Becoming Body Positive. It features Clare Sheehan, who talks about her journey with body stigma & the complexities of body image issues. If this post peaked your interest, definitely give this episode a listen!
*A shoutout my incredible mama. She lost her person (my stepdad) this month and I cannot even begin to fathom the heartbreak she’s experiencing. All the while she continues to show me the true meaning of love and strength every day of her life. She never made my weight an issue for me, and NEVER made me feel like my body needed to change. I could never thank you enough mom.
*Thank you to my partner in love. Despite all my anxieties, he shows me patience, kindness, and shows me unconditional love. Lastly, the rest of the women in my life who inspire me every day. (SCL, AR, RSM, CT, MS, MM, SM, etc… all yall know who you are!).
Happy Monday, I hope everyone’s January has started off strong! I totally meant to make a post about this earlier, but it took some thought to narrow down my focus of the new year.
After some reflection, I realized that a lot of my 2018 goals require being very intentional about my day to day life. What I’ve learned through personal development is that everything we do must be with intention, or we aren’t living with purpose, therefore making us feel like we’re running on auto-pilot every day.
When thinking about how I can live with more intention in 2018, I naturally had to think about what I’m leaving behind in 2017. As creatures of habits, it can be so easy to not stop and think about the people and things in our lives that are no long serving us. Especially when it feels comfortable to stay stuck with the same routines that we’re so used to.
Being someone who loves routine and is naturally resistant to change, I definitely believe that there is something to be said about changing up your routines in all areas of your life from your mornings, your workouts, and eating habits so that your body/mind doesn’t get bored or unmotivated. We need challenges every once in a while, how else would we grow! This back and forth action of creating routines but then spicing them up every now and then really helps me stay motivated and live more freely. And this also includes weeding out the things and people that don’t help us move in the right direction of inner peace and change.
With that being said, here are 4 major things that I will be leaving behind, that no longer (or never did) serve me, and prohibit me from living intentionally. I’m also including some things that I’m replacing this left behind habits. My hope is that they’ll help you reflect on your own life and habits that keep you from living your best self every day!
1. Self-limiting Beliefs
Leave behind: Self-limiting Beliefs – This is HUGE! While I know it might be a process to train my mind to stop its old, no longer self-serving habits, the things we tell ourselves on a daily basis can be so toxic and damaging to us without us even being consciously aware it. Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and said something like, “Wow, you’ve gained some weight, you’ve lost muscle, you really need to get back in the gym”. Like, would you ever make a comment to someone else like that OUTLOUD to their face?!
Or do you have a lot of reactions to yourself that start with the words or phrases, “I can’t”, “I should”, “I suck at”, “I always” or “I’m the worst”? By saying these things, you’re subconsciously telling yourself that you are incapable or less than someone or something else. Stop that. You are so capable of anything your lil heart desires, you just have to tell yourself that you are in order for it to become true.
Replace With: Daily Affirmations – Our beliefs about ourselves and the things we tell ourselves may not be true, but if we act like they are, they are your reality. To combat this habit, we have to speak what we want to believe and deserve into existence, and daily affirmations are a great way to do this. These are short messages of words that you need to hear the most. Imagine what your best friend would tell you as a pep-talk, this is probably what you want to put into your affirmations! Write your affirmations based off of your self-limiting beliefs.
For example, a self-limiting belief of mine is that I am bad at being disciplined, and therefore I’ll never be able to lose the weight I want to lose. To combat this, a daily affirmation of mine is I deserve to be healthy, I choose healthy habits to feel good, happy, and to live at my highest self for my wellbeing and others. Instead of focusing on the negative thought patterns I’m used to, I’m trying to change the focus to the positive things that happen when I choose healthier habits.
You don’t have to write them down in a special journal every day, but I definitely recommend writing them down somewhere you’ll see them at least once a day. On sticky-notes in your bathroom, on your mirror, in your phone on a note, etc. Also, repeat your affirmations outloud to yourself, maybe when you’re getting ready for the day, in your car, under your breathe while you’re walking, etc. This is a trick that life coach and entrepreneur Tony Robbins recommends, and it might feel silly to do this at first, but I swear it fills your heart up with so much gratitude and confidence! The more you repeat these words, the more you’ll rewire your brain to believe them, and the quicker they will be your reality. Below are some of my other affirmations I’ve written down (excuse the handwriting!):
2. The Scale
Leave Behind: The scale – For far too long, I’ve measured my fitness journey based off of the number on the scale, and this is something I need to officially leave behind. My weight fluctuates very easily, so there will be weeks that I see that I’ve lost 2 pounds, then the next week, have gained 3 pounds, and my whole confidence is shot. Then I start spiraling down into a deep dark whole of self-pity and harmful negative thoughts about my worth.
That ONE number makes me want to give up on trying to reach my fitness goals. The reality is, so many factors could be contributing to the number on the scale: The water you’ve consumed, your muscle gain, your indigestion, etc. It can be a good measure of progress for some people, but for me, it does more harm than it does good. So, I’m done measuring my progress with numbers.
Replace With: Intuition & Awareness – This includes how my clothes fit, pictures of me before I got back on my health track, and how I FEEL. Since dealing with emotional eating issues, I’ve become the biggest advocate for intuitive eating. This means listening to your body and eating when you’re hungry, satisfying your cravings, etc. It’s an act of self-love to stop thinking about my worth and health in terms of pounds and inches lost, and start thinking about it in terms of how I feel and gratitude for all that my body does for me. This all goes back to those affirmations!
Leave Behind: Grudges – 2017 was a huge learning year for me in terms of the negativity, sadness, and anger I hold inside from people that have wronged me. Whether you carry negative feelings towards an old friend or towards family members, those feelings keep you from being present and from being the person you want to be. No, it’s not your fault that they messed up, but it *is* your responsibility to change how you react towards the situation.
Replace With: Forgiveness & Gratitude – Often, those who’ve wronged you need your love more than they need your hate. They may not even know that you still feel hurt or wronged, therefore, you’re the only person allowing yourself to feel negative. Instead, try to think about these people as human beings who’ve made mistakes, and their wronging you is an indication of their lack of personal development or a result of they themselves being wronged in the past. This could be a time to open up a line of communication with this person, or it could simply mean personal reflection about them. You don’t have to make up and be best friends with these people, but try reframe your energy towards them; be thankful for the opportunity they’ve given you to learn and grow.
Leave Behind: Labels – I’ve never been one to CONSCIOUSLY place labels on things or people, but I’ve noticed the anxiety I feel when I pressure myself to place labels on myself. For example, my last post was about my plant-based experience. I felt pressured to call myself vegan, when in reality, all I want to focus on is experimenting with what makes me feel at my optimal health while being conscious about the world around me.
Replace With: Confidence – This is something I work on every day, and hope to keep strengthening through my vulnerability with you guys. I’m learning to truly not care about what other people say and think about me; your identity is whatever YOU say it is. There are always going to be judgmental haters out there, but things in life shift all the time and some things just shouldn’t and can’t be limited to one word or label. One day you could be Democrat, and the next day you might learn about another party that aligns with your values and become Republican. The universe is always in fluctuation, especially as we learn more about the world. We just have to stay true to ourselves throughout it. Whoever you are, just be unapologetically yourself!
A repost from my previous blog, written on 3/21/2017:
If you’re like me, then participation in sports was a very normal part of growing up. Like with many of us sports-loving/active kids, injuries also became a normal part my playing. For me, it started off with something small, like twisting my ankle playing soccer at age 4. But over the years, the wear and tear of being a multi-sport athlete (and a female athlete, at that) has taken its toll on my body as I sit here writing with ongoing lower back pain and my second torn ACL. Many who have torn their ACL will tell you that the biggest fear of the injury is tearing it again, and now that fear has become my reality. So while I still love my main games of basketball and ultimate frisbee, I hate the injuries I’ve ensued playing them!
In my experience, injuries often take more of a toll on you emotionally than they do physically, especially ones that require long-term recovery rehabilitation. Since this isn’t my first rodeo, I’ve found various pathways to resilience throughout the recovery processes of these sometimes discouraging injuries. And while some of you may have experienced or are currently experiencing injuries on varying scales, I will be writing through my *torn ACL/partial meniscus tear* lens as I’m getting surgery this week! Here are some tips to help you deal with the injury period:
- Find the silver lining
- I’m a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason. While challenging, remaining positive and finding new perspectives on your situation can remind you to be grateful that you still have it better than a lot of people in this world. Take this time as an opportunity to give your body a break, to heal your body with nutritious foods, and to plan for your comeback. Figure out how to fill a different role for your team, even if you can’t physically contribute on the field/court. Take on a new project you’ve always wanted to do but never had time for. Rather than thinking “why did this happen to me?” try to think “what opportunities has this opened up for me?”
- Cry it out when you need to
- Some days, it’ll just be really hard. It can be difficult seeing the amazing people you’ve surrounded yourself with succeeding and doing incredible things, but not being fully able to achieve all of your own accomplishments when so much physical energy and mental space is put into your injury every day. Admittedly, I feel vulnerable not being able to reach my fullest potential and set goals that require the mobility of my legs. It’s frustrating to hear the doctors say recovery could be a 9-month process, and realizing all the things that I’m physically limited to because of that. Re-explaining your injury over and over again to those who didn’t know is exhausting. The reality is that some recoveries take much longer than you hope for. It sucks, and it can be overwhelming on some days more than others. Letting it out doesn’t make you weak, and it doesn’t make you “too emotional”. Feeling sad, angry, and frustrated about it only makes you human. This is normal, this is part of the process, and you’re valid for what you’re feeling on those bad days.
- Rely on your community
- Let your friends and family take care of you. Let go of any pride you might have; people love and care for your success & well-being, so let them support you in your hour of need. Personally, I hate the idea of having to rely on other people, especially for day to day tasks. I love my independence and I love being a support system for others, but I’ve had to accept that I’m allowed to ask for that same care from my loved ones. Let people drive you to do errands, let people bring you meals, let people assist you to class. Those people wouldn’t offer their services of care if they didn’t want to.
- Work on the muscles you can
- Although you should be careful and listen to the instructions of your doctor/PT, find other ways to exercise. It can be easy to fall into a slump and maybe feel some depression when you can’t stick to your normal workout routine, but now is your time to be creative. For example: Since my injury is knee related, I’ve starting doing more upper body and core strengthening (peep the one-legged plank). I’ve also attempted swimming, an exercise I was never particularly good at but knew was very low impact on the body. So, push yourself out of your comfort zone, within your physical limitations of course!
- Further, take this time to exercise your mind. I cannot encourage this more. Not only by listening to some great podcasts or picking up a book, but through mindfulness. With mindfulness exercises, I’ve found more compassion, patience, and self love. The benefits and healing power of meditation can be powerful if you give yourself the persistent time, space, and effort it takes to find presence. I personally like my app headspace, and calm, those are easy places to start with step-by-step and guided meditations. “When you own your breath, no one can steal your peace”
- Delve into your artistic side
- If your injury allows, pick up an instrument you’ve always wanted to learn. Find some yummy recipes to make, even if you never cook for yourself. Learn a language you’ve always wanted to become fluent in. Buy yourself some paint or pencils, go to a pottery place or pick up an art class. I’ve *personally* always wanted to go to one of those paint-while-sipping-wine classes. Challenge yourself to hone in on your creative energy, you never know what hidden talents you might unveil. You artistic side can be very therapeutic!
- Take your time
- With all of this being said, don’t push yourself too hard to get back to your normal workout routine or your sports too soon. You might be anxious to make things normal again, but the last thing you want is to not heal properly and have to start over from square one (believe me, I’ve witnessed people do this first hand!), OR develop even more problems down the line. Take your PT or at-home exercises seriously, listen to your body and to your doctor. No matter how quickly or how slowly it might take for you to heal, you’ll thank yourself for gaining your strength back the right way!
A repost from my old blog, written on 3/07/2017:
Dear Body Week
This week is “Dear Body Week” at my school, and various events will be held on campus to promote daily body positivity. This theme is partially based off of a project that came to us last year called “Dear World”, which (according to their website) aims to reveal stories of hope, struggle, and of brighter days by sharing photos of people who are willing to participate. Given these themes, I felt like this was an opportune moment to share my experience with my own body image struggles and this beautiful project.
My Food Anxiety
At the beginning of my sophomore year in college, I developed an anxiety with food as a result of creating unrealistic fitness goals for myself. Weight loss had always been fairly difficult for me because I’m a slow burner, I grew up in the south where butter is its own food group, and I lacked knowledge around nutrition. But working with a trainer the summer prior to my sophomore year of college was a true milestone for me.
My first year of college did not go at all how I expected it to, and for the first time in my life, I experienced what true depression really felt like. It was to a point where I would wake crying every single day, and I didn’t know how to stop it. Fitness training helped me find some answers; it made me feel empowered and resilient by my own physical and emotional strength. While I was always somewhat self-conscious about being the “bigger” girl in my friend group growing up, my real incentive for those workouts was to challenge myself. I wanted to see how far I could push my mind and body, and to discover if I had any true limits. It was a distraction from the sadness I was holding inside, and an outlet for it. In just 8 weeks, both my physical and emotional transformation was something I never believed I could achieve. I was SO proud of myself for pulling myself out of this rut through something that I thought was so healthy.
Gaining it All Back… And Then Some
When I transferred to my new college that fall, I was placed into an entirely new environment full of amazing food, lots of drinking, and little sleep. Naturally, I started to gain the weight back. At this point, I was hyperfocused on the scale, because it’s all I knew to “track my progress”. After the first 5 pounds, I had thoughts like okay this is normal, drinking again does this. You’re experiencing New Orleans and all you can eat dining hall food, it’s fine.
Then, after the next 5-8 pounds, I started feeling truly ashamed about myself and about my body. I would say things to myself like You worked so hard to lose weight and build muscle, how are you letting all of that slip away? You can do better and SHOULD do better! Little did I realize that I was not really using those words as motivation to get healthy, but as a punishment that started driving me back down into a dark place again.
Amongst other consequences, that negative self-talk and lack of control turned into emotional eating habits. I would buy food for myself when I wasn’t even hungry, I’d make myself workout even if my body was hurting. I didn’t know why I couldn’t control these things after a whole summer of successful weight loss. I felt myself spiraling out of control and ended up gaining 20 pounds that year.
The Beginning of Healing
After some hard months, I finally recognized that the way I was eating was problem that was interfering with my life. I knew it wasn’t normal, because these behaviors and thought patterns about eating weren’t ones I’d always had. I started getting scared about what emotional eating meant for me. I didn’t know how I was going to achieve my fitness goals while also handling anxiety around food and weight gain. Was it even possible? I had to come to realization that these behaviors were attempts to maintain control over my life to compensate for the little control I had in other areas in my life. I still held onto sadness, anger, and trauma from my past that I’d never fully dealt with.
This confrontation with myself is when the healing really began. I started seeing a therapist, who unfortunately didn’t know much about binge-eating. So while she helped me with some of my anxiety, I had to do a lot of research on my own. I began by simply replacing those negative thoughts with ones that forced me to be honest like Why are you really reaching for food? What do you actually need right now? Why do you really want to lose weight? Is this goal realistic right now? How does your body feel? Can you accept your body for where it is in this moment?
While I attribute much of my healing and progress to the support of some amazing friends, the true key to my recovery came from within myself. In addition to having more mindful thinking habits, I had to actively work on loving myself.
My Journey to Self-Love
When deciding on what aspect of my life I wanted to show on my body for my Dear World photo, I thought about some of the positive quotes I’d read during this continuous journey of self love. One of those sayings consisted of a few simple words that truly changed my perspective on how I now navigate through life:
Sometimes it’s okay if the only thing you did today was breathe.
In other words, waking up alive each day is not promised; it’s a gift and a privilege. It’s so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day routines, to go about our days on auto-pilot instead of truly living our experiences. To focus on things like how we look rather than how we feel. We forget to be thankful that we had the chance to do life all over again that day.
Within the darkness of my own self punishment and sadness, I had forgotten to also remember all of the beautiful light that shed pure joy on my life. As I mentioned a year ago in my original Dear World post on FaceBook, Buddha said, “You, yourself, more than anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
So this week, I ask you to remember that whatever struggles you might be facing, whatever pain you’re dealing with inside, and wherever you’re at in the process of achieving your goals in life: Take it one day at a time, and one step at a time. Trust yourself to make your being whole. Be grateful and recognize your existence and of everything beautiful around you. Be forgiving of and kind to yourself.
You don’t have to accomplish all of your goals and overcome all of your obstacles in one day; Some days, all you need is to take a moment for yourself, find presence, and simply breathe.